Slipper craves that winning feeling

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

As players have come and gone from the Reds team that watched James Horwill hold the Super Rugby trophy aloft in 2011, one man has stayed at Ballymore in the seven years which have followed.

While Scott Higginbotham, Jono Lance and Ben Lucas have all found their way back to Ballymore having lined up for other clubs, James Slipper is the only remaining member of this Reds squad that has stuck solid throughout.

In remaining a one club player, Slipper has shown his true colours.

"My first and foremost is always to just play for Queensland and I still have plenty to give," Slipper said.

"It's a shame that we don't have more of those guys (from the 2011) team anymore but when you win the comp, these things happen.

"The price above each guy's head goes up and it's hard to keep the group together."Slipper has led the Reds from a young age. Photo: Getty ImagesSlipper's price, like many others, increased after a 2011 season in which he started every game prior to the semi-final and final - which he missed through injury.

And while he feels a part of the premiership side, missing out on featuring in that tremendous win at Suncorp Stadium has kept the fire burning strong.

"Personally, I just want to win another one," Slipper said.

"Now that I have been through some of those years where we haven't gone so well, I want to be here and stick around until we do get back to the top.

"You hear other players speak about how when you're younger, you never really realise how lucky you are to be there - and you don't.

"You don't really understand what it takes when you're young and that makes me want it now more than ever."

While he is only 28, Slipper does feel like part of the furniture at Ballymore.

His meteoric rise has plenty to do with that feeling, as he went from QAS Academy member to Test regular in less than 12 months.

After a 2010 Super Rugby debut which even Slipper admits was a "shock to the system", the star prop finished the year with three Super Rugby caps and 14 Test caps.

A remarkable run of starts followed and it wasn't until an achilles injury killed his 2017 season that he spent any sort of extended time away from the game.

After a run of three years as captain in which the Reds won just 11 of a possible 35 games, time spent on the sidelines was actually a blessing in disguise.

Having notched his 100th cap against the Stormers, Slipper is in arguably career best form.

"It was really refreshing," he said of his time away from the game.

"It was a feeling of groundhog day over these last few years.

"Having Higgers as skipper is good for the group and good for me, as well.

"Not having to worry about stuff outside of footy has been amazing and my body is in good knick compared to the last few years.

"It feels really good to have started the season well and hopefully that continues."

While he is starring up front, Slipper also has a genuine opinion of the group coach Brad Thorn has cultivated since taking charge.

Both the young core and the tightness of the group reminds Slipper of the 2010 team, which broke the shackles that had hampered the Reds for years.

"I can genuinely say that I'm really, really happy with where the Reds are at right now compared to where we were at and where we were going over the last few years," Slipper said.

"It reminds me of 2010, this group.

"This young group that have played a lot of footy together - it's starting to come together."

That bodes very well for Slipper, as all he wants is that winning feeling.

"When you get that success as a group there really isn't anything that beats that feeling," he said.

"Sitting around in the change room with all of your mates, family, friends and the coaching staff having a beer after the game - nothing it beats it.

"It just makes you feel really good.

"Now that we've been through some tough times it will make it even sweeter."

The Reds take on the Chiefs tonight at Suncorp Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and radio.